As usual, Paul Krugman makes an excellent point. Today’s column, This Land of Denial and Death, lays it out in clear and damning words:
Incredibly bad leadership at the top is clearly an important factor. Thousands of Americans are dying, and the president is boasting about his TV ratings.
But this isn’t just about one man. Neither the scientific denial that crippled the initial response to this pandemic, nor the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths that now seem likely, are unique to Covid-19. Among advanced countries, the United States has long stood out as the land of denial and death. It’s just that we’re now seeing these national character flaws play out at a vastly accelerated rate.
The problem isn’t just Trump (though he and his malignant ego make it far worse); it’s the whole GOP and its denial of science in general. Climate change is the major case in point (or was until the coronavirus came along):
And while climate-change denial is a worldwide phenomenon, its epicenter is clearly here in America: Republicans are the world’s only major climate-denialist party.Nor is climate science the only thing they reject; not one of the candidates contending for the G.O.P.’s 2016 nomination was willing to endorse the theory of evolution.
Here in a nutshell are the two main reasons we can’t fix our world: The GOP is in thrall to those whose fortunes come from things that are destroying our climate, and from those who think their idea of God gives them the right and the duty to force their fantasies on the rest of us.
What lies behind Republican science denial? The answer seems to be a combination of fealty to special interests and fealty to evangelical Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr., who dismissed the coronavirus as a plot against Trump, then reopened his university despite health officials’ warnings, and seems to have created his own personal viral hot spot.
Krugman doesn’t want to sound too certain about the influence of the Christian right:
One possible story is that the U.S. political landscape gives special power to the anti-science religious right, which has lent its support to anti-government politicians. But I’m not sure whether this is the whole story, and the power of people like Falwell is itself a phenomenon that demands explanation.
But I’ve spent the past few years in intensive study of the history of religions, especially Christianity (and Judaism), and I’m convinced.
Basically, early Christianity used several tools to expand its influence and power; the one that concerns me most at this particular point is denial of reality. I won’t get into the details of how and why Christianity developed in this way (you can read my book if I ever finish it and get it published), but it is one of the main reasons we are in such trouble now.
Denial of reality is a human characteristic that is hardly limited to religion, but Christianity is a special case, since this religion made it into a command from God, and made it a capital crime to insist on reality instead. Although the Catholic church lost that power, and Protestants have rarely held it, fundamentalist Christians still dream of the day when they can wield it again. In the meantime, they deny climate change because it denies God’s promise to Noah that the earth would never again be destroyed. They deny evolution because it rejects the myths of Genesis. And they deny COVID-19 because God will protect them. Look at all the churches that insist on ignoring the social distancing rules.
Understand that I am not tarring all Christians with this. Many pastors and congregations are urging each other to stay at home, and virtual services are all the rage; Christians have also been at the forefront of the environmental movement; many (including the Vatican) have made their peace with evolution. But the evangelicals and the fundamentalists who long ago targeted the Republican party as their vehicle to political power and domination have infected the GOP with their denial of reality and their rejection of science. Trump holds their allegiance in large part because he plays to those fantasies.